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  • Wigamie
    Posts: 3
    Joined: Jun 1st, 2011, 06:56
    Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    Hi everyone, I'm new to this site/forum, so I apologize if this is a basic topic that has been covered a lot already. I just finished watching Steve H's Mastering Toolkit tutorial for Logic, which I enjoyed very much. At the end of the tutorial he gives his standard operating procedures for mastering, in which he says "maintain mixing, bouncing, and mastering as separate production processes." As someone who is fairly new to this process, I'm a little confused by that statement. First, in Steve H's tutorial, he appeared to be doing all his mastering on a single, final mixed-down track. Does that mean that you don't apply EQ or anything else to single tracks? Do you create your mix with raw tracks, then bounce them to a final mixed-down track, and then add all mastering touches? Or do you apply those things at both points? And if the bouncing is separate too, do you apply any mastering to your single tracks, then bounce them into mastered single tracks, then mix those tracks and bounce them into a single mixed-down track, then apply final mastering, then bounce one last time? As you can see, I'm rather confused, so any guidance or tips that anyone has are greatly appreciated!
    Reply
  • Peter Schwartz
    Posts: 545
    Joined: Sep 15th, 2007, 06:04
    Re: Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    Mixing and Mastering are two different processes. You don't "master" any single track in a production. On the track level, individual parts are treated (if necessary) with various plugins (EQ, compression, etc.) to make them sound as you want them to sound, and to make them fit into an arrangement. Mastering is a stage of record production that's intended to put a final polish on an entire mix; it's not a term used to describe whatever kinds of finessing you do to an individual track. In short, individual tracks in a production aren't mastered. Entire mixes are. Let's take a step back... Mixing is the process in which you balance the individual track's volumes relative to one another, apply panning, EQ and other types of treatments (as needed), adding special effects (delay, reverb, etc.), and so on. The idea is to make your mix sound good on its own. Once you're satisfied with the sound of your mix, then it's time to think about mastering. Now, I haven't seen the video, but there are two ways you can approach mastering a track. One is to bounce your final mix to a stereo track (a "2-mix") and apply your various mastering plugins to that track. Of course, at this point you're not going to be listening to any of your production tracks; just the 2-mix, with whatever plugins you apply to master the track. Another way is to keep all of your tracks "virtual", routing them all to the stereo output and applying various mastering plugins directly to the stereo output. The first way is a more disciplined approach, the idea being that once you mix your track you're not going to go back and tweak it to death. However, if during your attempts at mastering the track exhibits some major flaws (i.e., the vocal really is way too loud), it might be time to re-consider how well the track was mixed in the first place. Taking the second approach allows you to make any necessary adjustments to the track right then and there, but again, there will be the temptation to tweak everything just because everything is available to you. HTH, Ski
    Reply
  • Wigamie
    Posts: 3
    Joined: Jun 1st, 2011, 06:56
    Re: Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    Marvelous, that is extremely helpful! Is there any difference in sound quality between the two methods you describe at the end there? Thanks for being willing to suffer a fool!
    Reply
  • Peter Schwartz
    Posts: 545
    Joined: Sep 15th, 2007, 06:04
    Re: Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    "Thanks for being willing to suffer a fool!" Oh, not at all, truly! Sound difference between the two methods... the answer is, "it depends..." I'll give you an example from a recent project I just finished: In this project I was using Kontakt loaded up with some guitar samples. Each time a note ended there was the sound of the recorded guitarist sliding his fingers on the strings. Quite a bit of realism built in there! But the sound of that sliding was random. In other words, they had sampled a whole slew of fingers-sliding-off-the-strings sounds and so each time I ended a note, a randomly chosen finger-slide sound was produced. So each time I played the track, the ends of the notes sounded a little bit different. This was cool until I printed a 2-mix. For some reason, at that particular moment in time, the samples that were randomly chosen were waaayyy loud. So I printed another 2-mix and that time, by sheer random chance, the finger slides were less noticeable. Better! So if any of the instrument plugins (and sometimes even reverbs) in your tracks produce a random result such as that, then playback of virtual tracks with mastering plugs on the Stereo Output is going to be different each time. Maybe only slightly different, but still, different, and enough to possibly throw off your perspective. "Hey, that (whatever) is louder than it was before" kind of thing. Therefore, in order to prevent a situation where the goalposts are moving, printing a 2-mix and assessing it prior to mastering would be the way to go. Hope that helps! And if you need more info or insights, don't hesitate to post back. Cheers! Ski
    Reply
  • Wigamie
    Posts: 3
    Joined: Jun 1st, 2011, 06:56
    Re: Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    Very interesting. Thanks again for your help!
    Reply
  • Rohogay
    Posts: 185
    Joined: Oct 26th, 2009, 07:08
    Re: Steve H's Mastering SOPs
    Ya, What Ski said.
    Reply
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